Tragedy unites Dhaka’s warring Begums

May 10th, 2009 - 12:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Sheikh Hasina Dhaka, May 10 (IANS) An emotion-charged meeting between Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and opposition leader Khaleda Zia following the death of the former’s husband is being seen as a development that could “create a positive impact on politics”.
Zia rushed to Hasina’s residence hours after the passing away of Hasina’s husband M.A. Wazed Miah.

Hasina burst into tears. The two hugged after Zia conveyed her sorrow and briefly prayed together, media reports said Sunday.

Wazed Miah died Saturday after a prolonged illness. He was 67.

The meeting of the two women leaders before Miah’s body was front-page news with photographs in New Age and many other Dhaka newspapers.

That Zia embraced Hasina was “an unprecedented gesture in Bangladesh politics”, New Age said.

BNP Secretary General Khandaker Delwar Hossain told reporters: “There might be differences of opinion in politics, but the instance of this personal relation would create a positive impact on politics.”

“Witnesses said the arch rivals of politics since the early 1980s looked emotion-choked and they could not hold tears… As Khaleda entered the room, Hasina burst into tears. Khaleda embraced her,” said Moudud Ahmed who once belonged to Hasina’s Awami League (AL) but is now a senior leader of Zia-led Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

On hearing of Miah’s death, Zia reportedly ordered the cancellation of an anti-government rally scheduled for Saturday evening.

Besides meeting Hasina, Zia issued a condolence statement praising the contribution to the nation by Miah who once headed the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission.

Zia’s BNP lost to Hasina’s AL in last December’s election and she now leads a highly depleted opposition in parliament.

Efforts to bring them on the same platform during the last poll failed.

Both inherit political legacies that are in conflict despite having their roots in the country’s freedom movement in 1971.

There is dispute over who declared freedom from Pakistan first - Hasina’s politician father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who is considered to be the father of the nation or Zia’s soldier-husband Ziaur Rahman.

Both women have also suffered personal tragedies.

Hasina’s father and most of her family members were killed in a military coup in 1975 in which she suspects that Ziaur Rahman played a role.

Ziaur Rahman, who emerged as the military strongman and the president, was also gunned down in a military putsch in 1981.

The only time they came on the same platform was in 1990 to oust another military strongman Gen. H.M. Ershad. They parted ways immediately thereafter.

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